Posts Tagged ‘attention deficit disorders’

Meet a Master for Teaching Kids with Autism

August 20, 2012

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

Meet a master for teaching kids with autism…Dr. Temple Grandin. Temple, as she likes to be called, is shown in my blog pic below.

Dr. Temple Grandin, “most famous person in the world with autism”

She has a last name with a first syllable that aptly describes her impact on hundreds of thousands of families worldwide…GRAND.

If you work with children that have autism in any form on its wide spectrum, this blog is for you…

…straight from an interview I was honored to have with Temple.

Some members of the educational and autism communities will have the benefit of hearing Temple speak in person at an upcoming conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (US) on September 14. Chapel Hill is home to one of a number of TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic Children) centers that specialize in helping children and families affected by autism.

The conference is being coordinated by Future Horizons, Inc., based in Arlington, Texas (US). Their name is also fitting for teachers who participate in their programs. Think of the impact that effective teachers make on children’s futures, including, and maybe especially, children with special needs, like autism.

Temple will be one of two celebrated speakers; the other: Jed Baker, PhD. The HBO movie about Temple’s life won 7 Emmy Awards! Jed Baker has been featured on Nightline and 20/20, two well-known television programs in the US. His focus is on teaching ways to improve social behavior and understanding in children with autism.

Temple’s themes revolve around the nuts and bolts of recognizing that “different is not less;” that educators need to embrace strategies that direct children (with autism) to vocations where their skills will help them shine.

Temple Grandin, in a shirt with horse motif, a fitting connection to her PhD in Animal Science from the University of Illinois (US)

Look at Temple’s face in her blog pic here. The wisdom that radiates from her eyes grabs your attention!

You can hear wisdom in her voice as she focuses on helping teachers like us develop children’s areas of strength.

The description of Temple’s background and a summary of her upcoming presentation in Chapel Hill offer a template for teachers to follow as a new school year gets underway in many parts of the world.

Future Horizons and others who have worked with Temple call her an inspiration. It’s fascinating to learn about the challenges that she faced as a child and young adult. Her recommendations for helping others deal with autism are no-nonsense ideas based on her personal experience and evidence-based research – all pointed at overcoming obstacles.

Make a note of Temple’s conference topics. (I’ve elaborated on them slightly, based on my own experience.) Use the list below to help you assess needs if you’re teaching children with autism this year.

Think/learn about ways to modify your students’ learning environment to accommodate sensory challenges.

Discover how to recognize and accommodate neurological differences in your classroom setting.

Share information you have/learn about meeting the needs of children with autism (in appropriate, tactful ways) with their parents.

Learn to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary behaviors in students with autism and asperger’s (a form of autism).

Explore ways to enhance your current best practices to help kids (with autism) develop their talents into the beginning of a career path.

Here’s some good news…if Temple’s suggested “TO DO” list seems a bit overwhelming, she’s written extensively about every topic on the list. Loads of other research is available also, online, in libraries and bookstores. Check out Temple’s book Different…Not Less. Google Temple Grandin for more information on her publications, work and life.

Temple told me about two (of many) important people in her young life. One was a teacher that Temple briefly described as “a very good third grade teacher.” The teacher excelled in math instruction, making it interesting in a “1950s classroom.” That teacher could have been more restrictive, as was the norm at that time. Temple said that the small class sizes in the private school she attended were helpful, as well. “I am a visual thinker,” Temple clearly states, “and I was fortunate  to have teachers that had the time and spent it relating well to me.”

Funding issues today, of course, impact schools everywhere, meaning that small class instruction isn’t always an option. Temple’s “advice” to teachers in any class size anywhere still holds: teach to individual strengths!

Temple’s aunt, Ann Brecheen, was another star in Temple’s early years. “If I hadn’t gone to my aunt’s ranch,” Temple states, “I wouldn’t have started working with animals.” Animal science and care are passions that drive Temple to this day. She’s devised humane animal treatment methods related to the meat industry where she’s employed.

Temple’s current work connects her with people with “hands-on know-how” that underscores the importance of vocations. Temple told me this: “I went to a manufacturing plant yesterday, and this guy had crafted a piece of stainless steel equipment by hand.” “He’s a brilliant mechanical genius; the thing looks like it ought to be used in outer space, but it’s fantastic.” Temple went on to make her point about the importance of restoring vocational education, saying, “This guy would have been labeled with ADD in school, but we need more people like him. We need people who can build things – machinists, carpenters, craftsmen and women.”

Temple is concerned that in America (at least) we’ve lost sight of maintaining infrastructures. “We need to get back to practical problem solving. What kids can learn in sewing is the same as in carpentry. One material’s stiff, the other’s soft.” What poetry!

What’s the connection with crafting and communicating with children with autism? Temple’s point…and she expresses this in many ways…children with autism are different, not less. We as teachers need to find ways to get kids excited about more than video games if they don’t relate well to people. One way to do that is to invite them to make things.

Temple makes time spent with her an amazing learning experience of its own. Teachers might serve children with special needs (even) better by paying more attention to the way Temple sees the world and shares her views.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings! Talk with you next Monday – Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers.

Look for Mid-Week Focus on Wednesday.

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Attention-Getting Power of Color

March 21, 2011

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

I was inspired to write this week’s blog by a teacher that swears by the power of color to help students with attention-deficit disorder achieve success in writing. Her testimonials about the effectiveness of color-coded learning led me to check out research into the properties of color. What I found works for all students, really, for everyone with eyes to see.

Color is amazing! Stop and think about this…For something that has neither body nor substance, color is a brilliant part of our world. Think about the way that you describe everything and you’ll hear color words come repeatedly to your ears. Listening for what comes to your ears, by the way, is a great way to get kids learning in all subject areas, not just when writing.

Research data collected for commercial outcomes offers insight into the power of color that teachers can apply in educating kids. For example, some sources suggest that with printed information of any kind, color pieces are eighty percent more likely to be read than print in only black and white. It’s a no-brainer to know that what is most read will also be most remembered. Isnt’ that why teachers choose classroom posters in brilliant colors. Color catches the eye and is likely to leave a lasting impression. That’s good news, but as you may have heard on color television…”Wait, there’s more…”

Research into the persuasive properties of color also shows that color speeds learning by up to seventy percent. This data opens up a world of opportunity for teachers. You may need to print masters to be copied for class distribution in black and white, but vital information such as notices about desired classroom conduct, school policies and most importantly, basic instruction, are more likely to be remembered when they are in color.

I believe that teachers are forced to compete with commercial ventures of all kinds today to catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention. So, it seems reasonable to search for ways to apply commercial data to educational goals. If you’re looking for ways to enhance your students’ productivity, for example, consider what else researchers have discovered about color:

Color helps people find information up to eighty percent faster that do documents printed in only black and white. That’s because color documents are easier to read and understand and they help improve efficiency. This benefit connects nicely with data that shows that color increases reading comprehension by as much as seventy-three percent.

The power of teaching with color explains the growing popularity of teaching tools like computer-based white boards that allow you to write and highlight in different colors. Trick is, adding color while teaching takes time and needs to be a mastered technique to be well-integrated into the delivery of lessons.

Colorful computer-based teaching and learning can be wonderful until the moments we utter what some call the four most feared words in many languages of the world today…”The computer is down.”

Another challenge that any K – 5 teacher faces today in applying the power of color in teaching environments that are full of distractions is how to get color to stand out in a world of color! Answer: Use the power of your own personality. After all, you are the master of your classroom universe and your students – free spirits as they are – are still under your command.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

Barbara The Lovable Poet

An Eagle Eye On Attention

November 22, 2010

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

A recent article by Matt Richtel published in the New York Times offers more evidence that children are becoming less and less able to stay focused in our digital age.  You might try to access Richtel’s writing online; its alarming title and subtitle read: Growing up digital – wired for distraction? Stimuli feared to threaten learning.

Richtel’s article raises the same dilemma that I hear over and over from teachers searching for effective ways to catch and keep K – 5 students attention. In a nutshell, educators worried about decreasing attention levels in students wrestle with how to address the problem. Should we and should parents adamantly limit, and in some cases deny, children’s access to the instant click and switch of technology or should we pour resources into developing more digital-based teaching resources?

The former option clearly has us paddling against the current. The latter option falls into a school of thought expressed by the phrase, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” What’s an educator to do?

I’m of a mind that we should embrace both options, leaning in whichever direction best suits our professional and personal circumstances. That’s why I created my blog; my goal is to offer tools and tricks that take technology into account but are not technology dependent.

Last week I was teaching at a school where a large percentage of the students have very little access to computers either in school or at home. The teachers I worked with teach third grade. It was interesting to me that when I asked each of them individually what strategies currently work best for keeping students on task, they all gave the same answer.

Here it is…a new attention tool that you may adopt for your classroom:

THE EAGLE HAS AN EYE ON YOU – It just so happens that the eagle is the school mascot, the teachers told me. The eagle is a powerful symbol in the US but any bird that is able to fly high can become an attention tool in the capable hands of any teacher worldwide.

Choose the applications you like from the following options:

  • Beak Quiet Please – Explain to your students that your hand represents the beak of the class attention bird. Tell everyone to watch for whenever you hold up your hand, open and close it like a beak. When students see the beak open and close, it’s a cue for them to get quiet.
  • Flying By To See Who’s On Task – When you introduce the class attention bird, tell students that they might see you “flying by” to look for good workers. Demonstrate a bird’s wingspan by holding your arms out as if to fly. This attention trick is best when limited; you’ll know the right moments to use it.
  • Wing Catch – Just before lunch one day, I watched one of the teachers with whom I worked last week, walk around the room “catching” students who looked ready to line up for the cafeteria. She made a motion with her arms as if they were wings turning inward to catch prey, but her voice was gentle as she told students what she was doing. They responded quickly in a positive way.

Talk about high-tech vs. low-tech! The above descriptions of using a bird as a classroom symbol for attention is about as low-tech as you can go. Yet, I witnessed the power of this tool.

We can say for certain that attention-ology strategies that call on students AND teachers to use their imaginations stand a good chance of success.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet 

Attention Crisis for Young and Old

June 28, 2010

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Here’s a frightening thought…if children in grades K – 5 today have trouble paying attention in elementary school now, imagine the challenges they will face as they age into higher grades and adulthood later.

Attention problems are not limited to children in elementary classrooms. Loss of focus now plagues people over 50 years old as well, and the concerns are not limited to those who have been “officially” diagnosed with attention deficit disorders.

According to a recent article in AARP, a publication of the American Association of Retired People, what many call “information overload” has become an “attention crisis.”  Some call this phenomenon the “culture of distraction” and “information-fatigue syndrome.” Call it what you like, the root cause of the “attention crisis” is almost always identified as technology-based stimuli that come in droves and can scramble the best brains.

In the AARP article, author Katy Read quotes Maggie Jackson who has written Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Says Jackson, “we’re facing the limit of human ability to cope with stimuli in our environment.”

Children’s capacity to multi-task is less hindered than that of people over 50 because, as Read explains it, aging causes “brain changes including small blockages to the brain’s blood supply and a drop in nerve-signaling chemicals (which) can make it harder to tune out distractions.” Read goes on to cite research conducted recently at the University of California – San Diego showing that, “on average, Americans hear, see, or read 34 gigabytes worth of information a day – about 100,000 words – from TV, the Internet, books, radio, newspapers, and other sources.”  The trend in information consumption that will impact children currently in grades K – 5 is upward – “more than 5 percent annually since 1980,” according to UC’s research.

In her article, Read also introduces readers to Linda Stone, a former Microsoft executive, who writes a blog titled The Attention Project. Stone describes the attention crisis we all face as paying “continuous partial attention.” Those three words don’t bode well for children rising from grade to grade. For one thing, “partial attention” does not forecast good test results.

Looks like we not only need to keep developing tools and tricks to catch and keep students’ attention; we must also help children learn to control their participation in the culture of distraction – a tall order!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

Welcome to Attention-ology for K-5 Teachers

March 15, 2010

Hi and welcome to my new blog featuring tools and tricks to catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention. On a weekly basis, Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers will offer new approaches to classroom management in a world driven by distractions. It’s a challenge that many educators agree grows each year! I hope my blog will also be a place for you to share your success stories with other teachers related to keeping kids on task, including but by no means limited to, students with ADD or ADHD.

Since 2001 I’ve taught close to 14,000 K – 5 students in schools across North Carolina’s largest school system, a system that is also one of the largest in the US. When I go into a classroom as a visiting writer I have only five days to help students get good work done so necessity has been the proverbial “mother of invention” for me, meaning I’ve created all kinds of quick and easy techniques to peak and keep attention in class.

Here’s a quick tip to putting smiles on young childrens’ faces and getting eyes and ears ready to listen and learn:  Up the pitch of your voice to sound like a leprechaun – great time to try this close to St. Patrick’s Day – and suddenly start  speaking with your new wee voice.  You’ll have instant attention!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet